Silent Hills trailer still

Why ‘Silent Hills’ Was Cancelled

The classic Silent Hill games are among the most beloved titles from the fifth and sixth generation of video game consoles. Loaded with dread, an eerie atmosphere, and mind-bending ambiguity, they delivered the ultimate horror experience while emphasising plot over action. Admittedly, some of the later sequels are middling, focusing on action elements over dread-inducing chills. But the impact of the early entries cannot be overstated.

In 2014, fans were left salivating at the announcement of Guillermo del Toro and Hideo Kojima‘s Silent Hills, the proposed ninth instalment that would have served as a reboot of the franchise. One of the most acclaimed horror filmmakers of the modern era teaming up with the creator of Metal Gear Solid? That was a match made in Heaven. Throw in Junji Ito, the acclaimed manga writer and artist behind Uzumaki, and that was the cherry on top of the tasty pie.

Silent Hills stemmed from P.T., a playable teaser that gave fans a taste of what was in store for the return to the haunted town. It seemed as though Konami was set to not only break the bank but buy it for themselves and charge others entry. But it was too good to be true. In 2015, the tragic news came that Silent Hills had been cancelled, leaving thousands of fans stunned at the loss of a title with such potential. What happened to Silent Hills? What did Konami have to gain from shelving one of the most anticipated gaming projects in living memory? Let’s discuss.

What would Silent Hills’ story have entailed?

Norman Reedus in Silent Hills

Details about Silent Hills’ story have been kept close to the vest, but the game would have been set in a single location and retained the immersive horror sensibilities of P.T. In an interview with IGN, del Toro explained that Silent Hills would embrace the atmospheric horror of its predecessors while embracing modern techniques.

“What we wanted to do with the game – and we were very much in agreement on this – was to take the technology and make it as cutting-edge as we could in creating terror in the house. The idea was very, very atmosphere-drenched.”

Naturally, the franchise’s investigative fans did do some digging and tried to piece the few clues they had together. According to Looper, they analysed P.T.’s audio files in an effort to find out more about the story and characters in Silent Hills. Many of the audio files referenced familicides carried out by disturbed fathers, speculating that the protagonist could have been a survivor of one of those events. If I had to hazard a guess, a spooky monster or demon would have been the architect of those horrific tragedies.

Elsewhere, Norman Reedus was on board to voice the protagonist. Ito, meanwhile, was approached about designing the monsters, but as Game Informer pointed out, he didn’t even get as far as the sketching stage. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that Kojima and del Toro didn’t have enough time to make any serious progress with the project.

All we know for sure is this: the creators wanted to scare players with Silent Hills, and they never got that opportunity due to behind-the-scenes fallout.

Why Silent Hills Was Cancelled

Severed head in Silent Hills

If only the desire to create good art was enough to keep creators and companies working together without any hassle. In 2015, Kojima and Konami shockingly parted ways after 30 years of successful collaborations. The breakup was comparable to a celebrity divorce as they’d been inseparable for decades. Not only was Kojima one of the most successful creators in the company’s history, but his position as its Creative Content Officer meant that he had a say over every single title Konami put out. What led to that relationship crumbling?

As SVG noted, the implosion can be traced back to 2010 — the same year Konami released Dragon Collection. The card-collecting game was a phenomenon that took off on social media and mobile platforms, causing the developer to rethink its strategy. Not only was Dragon Collection a major success, but it was also cheap to produce. This meant that Komani no longer had to prioritise AAA titles such as Metal Gear Solid, Castlevania and, of course, Silent Hill. While Kojima’s departure was still some years away, this era marked a shift in Konami’s mentality. The company’ hasn’t completely abandoned tentpole games since then, but its pivot towards mobile releases has certainly paid off. Of course, the disintegration of a three-decade partnership was more complicated than Konami’s resorting to more cost-effective means. 

In 2015, Konami underwent a corporate restructuring that consolidated its studio-based system — which gave developers more control over their projects — into a headquarters-based model run by a new board. This led to staff members losing their jobs or being given new roles in the company. Kojima was caught in the crossfire and removed from his executive position. According to Gamespot, Kojima and his team were given restricted access to Konami’s resources while they were making Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, essentially working in an independent contractor capacity. When the announcement came that The Phantom Pain would be Kojima’s final collaboration with Konami, the run was over.

The fallout also caused Konami to remove P.T. from the Playstation Store and take Kojima’s name off of the Metal Gear Solid 5 website and promotional materials. This wasn’t merely two entities parting ways with each other — it was a messy situation that involved some backstage drama that’s never been publicly disclosed. Konami cancelled Silent Hills during this period too, and the rest is history.

Understandably, del Toro wasn’t happy about Silent Hills being tossed to the side. Kojima has been diplomatic whenever he’s talked about the experience, but his colleague has aired his frustrations quite openly. In an interview with Bloody-Disgusting, the Pan’s Labyrinth director revealed that he doesn’t understand why Konami pulled the plug on a potentially great video game. 

“We were hoping to actually create some sort of panic with some of the devices we were talking about and it is really a shame that it’s not happening,” del Toro said. “When you ask about how things operate, that makes no fucking sense at all that that game is not happening.”

Fortunately, the Silent Hills fiasco proved to be a blessing in disguise. Kojima and co. landed on their feet afterwards. From the ashes of Silent Hills rose the phoenix that became known as Death Stranding

How Silent Hills (Possibly) Informed Death Stranding

Creepy baby in Death Stranding

After leaving Konami, Kojima announced the formation of a brand new Kojima Productions studio. The company’s first project, Death Stranding, saw him reteam with del Toro and Reedus for a post-apocalyptic adventure that reportedly features some leftover ideas from Silent Hills. According to GamesRadar, some conspiracy theorists have argued that Death Stranding is actually Silent Hills. Of course, this is codswallop. That being said, the report also highlights some of the most obvious connections between the cancelled game and the critically acclaimed post-apocalyptic tale.

For instance, Silent Hills and Death Stranding are fascinated with babies. It’s unclear how prominently newborns would have featured in Silent Hills, but the information gleaned from P.T. suggested that they’d have informed the story to some degree. Elsewhere, the horrific hands in Death Stranding also have links to the cancelled chiller. A hand monster is present in the Silent Hills teaser. Kojima and del Toro were clearly fascinated with the body part. Babies? That could be coincidental. Hands, though? That’s pretty specific.

The connections don’t end there either, but they aren’t significant in the grand scheme of things. Anyone who’s played Death Stranding knows that it’s a product of unwavering imagination, and everyone involved has a history of telling original stories. Of course, it’s clear that Kojima and del Toro didn’t want their unproduced ideas to go to waste, and the ghost of Silent Hills permeates Death Stranding ever-so-slightly.

Reedus also stated that both projects are entirely different. According to the actor (per The Hollywood Reporter), Death Stranding is “way better” and a “completely different thing” altogether. If anything, he believes that Silent Hills falling apart motivated the “geniuses” behind the game to try and break new ground entirely. The positive response to Death Stranding indicates that audiences and critics felt the same way. 

Still, as great as Death Stranding is, most gamers still want to return to the haunted town of Silent Hill — ideally with Kojima and del Toro leading the way.

The Future of Silent Hill

Konami has never ruled out making more Silent Hill games, and they could be on the way sooner rather than later. Earlier this year, Video Games Chronicle reported that two Silent Hill projects might be in development. It is believed that Konami has outsourced the projects to Bloober Team and a popular Japanese developer, but these stories are rumours for the time being.

However, Bloober Team has teased a Silent Hill project in recent times. While speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, CEO Piotr Babieno confirmed that the company was working on “another horror IP” with a “very famous gaming publisher.” It’s also worth noting that Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka revealed that he was working on a horror game for Bloober Team, so maybe it’s safe to be cautiously optimistic about the franchise returning from its slumber real soon.

The VGC report also noted that the mysterious Japanese company intended to create a departure from previous Silent Hill games. According to the report, Konami is very much open to licensing “alternative takes” on the horror franchise. If these reports are true, it’ll be interesting to see how they approach Silent Hill. There’s nothing wrong with bringing fresh ideas to the table, but straying too far from the psychological terror that Silent Hill fans crave could be disastrous — especially coming off the heels of an unrealised project from two creative maestros in del Toro and Kojima.

Here’s the thing with rumours, though — they’re all over the place. As Inverse reported, several outlets and industry insiders revealed that Sony has been working with Konami and Kojima to produce a new Silent Hill game for the PS5, though it’s unclear if it’s the resurrection of their previous collaboration. The article also states that Keiichiro Toyama (director and writer of the original 1999 Silent Hill) has been working on a reboot of the original with artist Masahiro Ito and the aforementioned Yamaoka. In short: the future is still uncertain.

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